The organizers of NAMM 2011 promised us to 'take it to 11' this year at Anaheim. Were they referencing Spinal Tap or giving a nod to the year 2011? Or maybe even Audiofanzine's traditional Top 11 NAMM list ;-) ? Either way, this was a very busy and interesting NAMM. Pre-NAMM rumors came true, the Steinberg website crashed, and Audiofanzine started shooting reel the night before doors opened. Being jet-lagged from Europe apparently has its advantages.
NAMM 2011 will be remembered as the year of the tech hard gear. From the deluge of products that were released this year, it was really hard to limit our list to just 11 items. Hence, we added our Very Honorable Mentions section. I remind our readers again, that the list is presented in no particular order (the products at the top of the list are not 'better' than others), there is no real way to compare products from different classes, and at the end, this is just our opinion.
The Top 11
1. Spectrasonics and Bob Moog Foundation OMG-1
Oh my god! Designed by Spectrasonics' Eric Persing, the OMG-1 is the product of a collaboration between Spectrasonics and the Bob Moog Foundation. The components are a Moog Little Phatty analogue synthesizer, two iPod touches, two Apple iPads, an Akai LPK 25, an Apple Mac mini, Spectrasonics Omnisphere and the new Spectrasonics TR app. These are all integrated into a hand-crafted curly maple cabinet created by American artisan Daniel Auon.
It is a sight to behold - and strictly a one-off that you can't buy [note: gear that you can't buy...a strange concept indeed]. However, Eric Persing is donating the OMG-1 to the Bob Moog Foundation, which will be offering it as a prize in a competition that kicks off on 15 March.
2. Cubase 6
Wasn't 5.5 just released? Well, Cubase 6 and Cubase Artist 6 offer enhanced features within the Project window. The newly introduced Track Edit Groups option is designed to refine the work with multitrack recordings, allowing related events on multiple tracks to be grouped and edited simultaneously, while the new Lane Track offers convenient multitake comping for selecting and consolidating audio parts to form the perfect take. The redesigned transient and automatic tempo detection, phase-accurate audio quantization and drum replacement functions incorporated in Cubase 6 help to smooth out glitches in live-recorded drum tracks. The Key Editor has further been enhanced with an Inspector panel and the groundbreaking Note Expression feature for creating and editing multiple controller values on a single-note level. Also included is the new Dynamics Lane, which allows real-time listening of dynamic changes while automatically in sync with dynamic notations from the Score Editor. For all new features you can check out Steinberg's site, which has since recovered...
The little reverb box that could! Eventide Reverb in a compact case for Guitar, Stage and Studio. Space features 12 of Eventide’s signature reverb combination effects taken from the H8000FW and Eclipse V4. These effects, previously available only in Eventide rack processors, are now available in a compact package. It has reverb algorithms combined with delays, pitch shifting, tremolo, modulation, and special effects. And how does it sound? Wonderfully wicked!
Dave Smith is tempting us again with his new analog drum machine. Tempest is a collaboration between Smith and instrument designer Roger Linn. Tempest is Smith's first to utilize analog synthesis to generate the sounds. “We’ve designed a very flexible new synth voice for Tempest,” said Smith. Linn added, “The design of Tempest reflects a rethinking of what a drum machine needs to be in the current era. It’s not so much a drum machine as a new musical performance instrument for the creation, manipulation, and arrangement of beat-oriented music, with an intuitive and efficient use of human gestures.” Tempest’s 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads are arranged in an 8 x 2 array to facilitate both real-time and step entry of beats. Two pressure- and position-sensitive Note FX slide controllers provide a new method of performance and control.
5. Korg Kronos
Korg teased us mercilessly before the show started, but finally Korg introduced the Kronos Music Workstation. Kronos unites nine individual synthesis engines in a single instrument. Together, they represent the legacy of Korg, and the history of the electronic keyboard industry itself, Korg says. Kronos' details and features are too numerous to include here so please check out the official press release here.
6. Kemper Profiling Amplifier
The Kemper Profiling Amplifier is a new concept for guitar amplification in the digital domain. Following the idea that every guitar player should be able to bring his personal sound of the tube amp setup he owns into a reproducible format, The Kemper Profiling Amplifier is designed to “learn” the sonic behavior of a guitar amplifier and offer the tone and feel the player knows from his “real” amp. According to the manufacturer, "now there will be a profile available of basically any sonic condition the tube amp setup can provide." The Kemper Profiling Amplifier comes with profiles of classic tube amps, including the classic speaker cabinets which are a part of the profiling result.
8. Vox Series 22
9. Marshall Yngwie Malmsteen Signature
The YJM100 is a 100-watt valve head that was developed in conjunction with Swedish six-string shredder, Yngwie Malmsteen. Marshall deserves some credit for doing things a little different. Based on the power and tone of the 'Holy Grail' 1959 Plexi head, the YJM100 ia a Neo-Classical amp with the following notable features:
- Boost with controls for Volume and Gain
- Adjustable Noise Gate
- Half power switch which takes the output power from 100W to 50W when engaged.
- Built-in, infinitely variable Attenuator control which can take the output stage from 100% to 0.01%, while retaining the tone and feel of the all-valve power section. This means the output power can be reduced to a low of 0.05 Watts when in 50W power mode.
Stutter Edit is iZotope's first collaboration with composer and electronic musician Brian Transeau. Stutter Edit's features revolve around a live sampling engine that lets producers, laptop performers and other musicians manipulate audio in real-time. Stutter Edit slices audio into small fragments and sequences the pieces into sharp rhythmic effects, recreating techniques that once took hours to perfect in the studio, according to iZotope. Results can range from jarring to subtle: a melody can be disintegrated into a syncopated rhythmic roll, or a drum hit can be transformed into an arpeggiated scale of pitches. The complex set of tools in Stutter Edit is balanced by a MIDI control scheme, which makes adding effects an intuitive process - much like playing an instrument.
11. Zildjian Gen16 Acoustic Electric Cymbal
The biggest drum news in NAMM 2011 was the debut of Zildjian's new technology division called Gen16. Zildjian unveiled Gen16's Acoustic/Electric ("A.E.") technology products. The A.E. Cymbal system is a hybrid acoustic/electric cymbal, combining low-volume acoustic cymbals with microphone, signal processing and tone modeling designed to "create a paradigm shift that promises to upend the notion of both electronic and traditional cymbals." The AE Cymbal is not a sample trigger device. Instead, it's an actual cymbal, and plays like one, but at reduced volume levels, utilizing a dual microphone and DSP engine to amplify and model the cymbal's output.
Very Honorable Mentions
The following products represent other gear that we simply could not fit on the Top 11 list, but would have certainly made it had the list been longer or NAMM 2011 less hectic! Congrats to the manufacturers for making this NAMM one to remember.
- Alesis StudioDock
- Arturia Spark
- Akai Synthstation 49
- Roland GR-55
- M-Audio Venom
- Danelectro Wild Things
- Two Notes PI 101
- Boss RC-3 & RC-30
- National RA3
- Red Witch Seven Sisters
- Vox Bruno TB 35 C1
- Misa Kitara